Talent Evolution Blog by Margaret Graziano

Talent rEvolution Blog by Margaret Graziano

Maximize Your HR Effectiveness workshop

Many companies—from multinational mega-corporations to neighborhood markets—are still using outdated hiring techniques. Clinging to the ways of the past when constructing a workforce leads to high turnover, stagnant engagement from staff and quarterly reports in the red.

In some cases, it is as if they are staffed by a host of HR drones, these businesses are going about the practice of hiring in a completely automatic, unconscious manner. Solving the hiring problems of the 21st Century requires a spirited, connected system that makes selecting the right candidates for the job easy.

It requires a conscious hiring process. Continue reading

Employee selection (and the use of assessments) is one of the fastest-growing sectors in human resources. Assessment tools of various sorts are used to evaluate everything from candidate motivations, values and behaviors to communication style, personality traits, skills, mental agility, and organizational ability. Knowing your needs and what the market offers enables you to choose the right assessment. Before engaging with assessment tools, ask yourself some questions: What does the job require? What do you want to measure from your applicant pool? What types of tests are available? Some assessments focus on only one dimension, like mental acuity, skills or knowledge base. Others consider motivations, communication style or personality traits. Still others focus on skills and competencies. Typically, when companies are hiring highly skilled knowledge workers for software development, sales or management roles they are looking for that person to both have the ability to perform the role and the capacity to work well with people throughout the customer life cycle.

Interview your internal clients (the actual managers) to determine what they want to achieve from their people and how an assessment would measure the person’s ability to accomplish those objectives.

For many managers, it’s important to have assessments that enable them to better mentor and coach their newly hired employees. Or they need a formalized assessment that allows them to understand how to motivate, fully empower and engage their staff. Additionally, managers might see a need for a tool to elevate their ability to allocate resources more effectively and optimize their workforce.

The most powerful use of your money and time is choosing one assessment that can be applied to the whole human capital picture, from hiring through succession planning and retention. This, however, is no small challenge. If you choose a single assessment, it is important to see evidence that it passes the validation process.

On a side note, read the fine print because some company materials state that their assessment tool is not to be used as a hiring tool. Other assessment tools fail the four-fifths rule (a mandate that states that if four-fifths of a protected class doesn’t score well on an assessment it could be determined as discriminatory).

An excellent form of validation is benchmarking. When an assessment is given to over 100 top performers from different companies in a similar role, the benchmark validation is the average sum of the results in each category. You can also customize your benchmark by assessing 9 to 11 top performers in a specific role within your company, the same number of employees with mediocre performance, and another group of the same size with poor performance. Have someone analyze this data and distinguish the common denominators of strengths and weaknesses in each group, as well as highlight areas for growth opportunities and red flags that signal threats to effectiveness.

An excellent way to assess your workforce is through a Talent Capacity Index, a brief summary on what this is is outlined below:

A 21st Century Workforce requires 21st Century performance expectations. What is traditionally referred to as a job description is, in the KeenAlignment training, referred to as the CPR. The Comprehensive Position Requirements document focuses on the reason the role exists, what the employee needs to do, who they need to be and how performance is measured in the role. When first establishing and building an internal hiring process, consider your corporate mission, vision and values as well as your philosophy, culture and business strategy. Define the purpose of the positions that exist. Debate with peers and come to a resolution on the specific measurements of success in the role. Clarify how those measurements are achieved. Determine the right values, behaviors and competencies the ideal employee needs to possess for this role. Ensure you can articulate what these look like in the workplace for effective performance, and translate them to descriptive Key Performance Indicators.

Next, list the tasks and core functions necessary to accomplish your desired outcomes, and how long those tasks should take in an ideal situation. Lastly, brainstorm with the key stakeholders surrounding that role about what behaviors, attributes, strengths, competencies and values, as well as intellectual, character and emotional quotients the ideal person needs to show up with. Remember to list attributes that are mandatory for success, yet not scope the job so high that Superman himself wouldn’t qualify. Once you think you know what it takes to be successful in the role, benchmark your existing team of solid performers who hold that type of role.

Understanding your current top players is an excellent way to establish the core elements of what makes a person a successful employee in that type of role with your company. Additionally, benchmarking your existing staff allows you to see the overall winning traits of your team and to see what is missing—the presence of which would make a difference. When you know what you want and what you need, and you have the ability to measure and compare or contrast candidates to those measurements, hiring becomes much easier and much more effective.

With an in-depth hiring process, you need many more candidates than you did when you were hiring based on gut feeling. Spend the time and money to diversify the search. Utilize as many resources as you can to populate the top of the funnel and give you plenty of choices. It is important to consider alternative talent mining resources as well; you might look at completely different industries housing similar types of roles. Opening the search to new industries increases the likelihood of generating a multitude of candidates.

A conscious hiring process considers experience to the degree that the person can perform the job, but it does not ignore the core of who a person is for words that fit on a resume.

In your advertisement, consider not listing exact experience required. It is a given that all roles need some level of experience walking in the door. But companies that employ conscious hiring report that behaviors, competencies and values, as well as philosophical alignment, trump exact experience when it comes to hiring the right fit. All of these and more make it imperative to implement a well-established and structured conscious hiring process.

Any additional tips on your recruiting strategy regarding job descriptions can be learned in this video:

Do you have any struggles when creating job descriptions? Let us know in the comments below!


The third & fourth secret: Active listening & being curious.


Being present is something many working professionals struggle with.  The ability to multi-task often comes at the cost of truly listening. The problem is when that happens in an interview, and you’re not actively listening, you are downloading and only hearing what you want to hear or only listening to validate your assumptions.  The first level of listening in an interview causes you to miss major clues that very well could enlighten you on the candidate’s compatibility with the company and in the role.


Active listening allows you to come out of an interview with some new data points that you weren’t aware of before. During this interview, you allow yourself to challenge some of your own assumptions, and when that happens that’s a good indicator that you have been exposed to some new realities out there that you weren’t aware of.


Paying attention, listening, and curiosity at higher levels—specifically during the career aspiration portion of the interview—is a major factor for successful long-term hires. Active listening at this level allows you to see reality through the candidate’s perspective—through their pair of eyes.


Active listening allows you to ask open ended questions in an interview and come out of a conversation with a new perspective, not just new data points. That’s key when evaluating how long a candidate will stay with the company and if the company can deliver on what the candidate wants and needs in a role.

Overall listening to what the candidate says and does not say illuminates their qualifications, interest, and potential red flags. Listening to how the candidate words their answers, and watching their facial expressions and body language also gives you access to how they feel and the attitude they have about the work they do.


The fifth secret: Mindful conclusions.


Take the time to debrief and evaluate the match fit for the candidate in the role. Go through your role requirements, and the candidates’ abilities and skills, as well as who they are and what needs and desires they want for their career. Lastly, bring all of it together and evaluate it this match makes sense. If it does not make sense, be honest and transparent and tell the candidate. If it does make sense for the candidate, the role, and the company, tell the candidate and arrange for next steps.


Great interviews start with great interviewers, and the best in the business conduct the process with five distinct secrets. They prepare diligently, they ensure a structured setting with an interviewing guide, they listen actively and curiously, and form mindful conclusions about a candidate to foster future success.


The next time you find a new candidate on your interview calendar, utilize these secrets to achieve more effective hires and watch our video below for extra tips on maximizing your interviewing effectiveness.



With the generational and workforce demographic challenges adversely impacting everybody’s ability to attract, hire, engage, develop and retain people; everyone needs a leg up on ensuring that they are putting their best foot forward in the employee selection process. Gallup reports that, on average, 30% of all hires feel mismatched to their role, and almost 70% of all working people feel somewhat disengaged either in their role or in their organization. The reality about these statistics is that is all begins with the hire.


There are five secrets to being a great interviewer.  Learning about and mastering these keys empower you to maximize your effectiveness in hiring the right people, for the right roles, for the right reasons.


The first secret: Consciously prepare yourself.


By following Stephen Covey’s advice and beginning with the end in mind you provide the most value to your company and candidates. There are three types of preparation: role needs preparation, interviewing preparation, and self-preparation. Make sure you know and understand specifically what you want to come away with before you start the interview.  Ultimately, you are interviewing to make a hiring recommendation, and it is your responsibility to fully understand the role you are hiring for as well as thoroughly understand the person you are considering matching to it.


Role. Ground yourself thoroughly in the needs of the role. Find out why it exists, its impact to the overall business strategy, as well as its success indicators.  Understand the role’s core functions and what it will take in terms of people, leadership, and decision-making competencies.  Be clear about the required technical skills, and the mandatory must haves (in that order).


Interview. During the interview, it is your job to determine the answer to these very important questions. Can the candidate really do the job? How long will the candidate be happy and productive? How will the candidate impact others?


Self. Bring your best self to the interview. The interview is not something you do to a candidate, is it something you go through together.  Prepare yourself for interviewing with a balanced perspective. Consider the perspective of the role, the candidate, and the company during the interview.  Take the time to review the candidate’s resume and the role requirements before you step in to the interview. Check in with yourself and make sure you are distraction free and that you are willing and able to be fully present during the interview. This means to turn off your phone and email, clear your desk and be ready.


The second secret:  Bring structure.


Avoid the pitfall of interviewing on autopilot. Get yourself mentally prepped to be in an interview. With how busy a day around the office can be, it’s not unheard of to conduct interviews on the run or in a less than optimal setting. It’s important to use an agenda and an interviewing guide to get the most out of the interview.


Use a formal work history interviewing guide that gives you all the questions that you need answered. Be specific about the time and the duration of the interview.  It is important that you plan time blocks for each section of the interview.  A specific time block should be set for the beginning of the interview, where you gather insights and an overview of the candidate, their interests and why they think it is a fit.  Block another time limit for the actual deep dive of the work history, and another for discovering the candidate’s goals and aspirations.

If you’d like to learn more on how to be an effective interviewer, watch my video below where I go into deeper detail on the secrets that will propel your interviewing techniques.




Every person, at every level in an organization needs some level of training and development. The rate of innovation is accelerating at a mind-numbing pace, and no matter what role a person holds, the skills of today will become insufficient for the work of tomorrow. Whether it is in the area of people readiness, a deeper technical expertise, management training or an ability to take feedback as constructive guidance; the development of the workforce must be a core tenant to any winning workforce strategy.

The greatest gift a leader can give their people is the gift of developing them professionally.




A key component to fostering alignment with employees and creating buy in for the business vision, mission and values is to find a way to connect the bigger picture into each and every employee’s heart and head. When the leader has an emotional commitment to the business mission and understands how his vision satisfies his peoples’ needs, that leader has direct access to igniting engagement within them. Without followers, you can’t be a leader—followers will only voluntarily engage in something they think satisfies their needs as well as your goals.


When people can connect their personal mission and purpose with the greater good of the company they naturally feel compelled to do better and give more of themselves at work.


Rewards and consequences


In taking action and moving toward completion of your mission and vision, there will inevitably be surprises and unexpected results. A person skilled in leading will continually assess the plan for achieving the stated goals and make course corrections along the way. Leading requires a focus on the milestones along the way, as well as an eye on the long-term mission.

While accountability is not black and white; it is a fundamental building block of any highly effective organization. Great leaders inform their people of what their role is expected to accomplish and how their role and work connects to the bigger company mission and plan. People do best when they have a full picture of the intended outcomes and the systemic impacts of their contribution.

In order to create a culture that drives your business initiatives forward and fulfills the intention of your mission, you’ll need to invest time and energy towards developing yourself as a leader of that culture. How well you communicate your intentions and how often, will be critical to the success of your cultural alignment initiative. To be the M.O.R.T.A.R. that holds your workforce together, you must make developing yourself a top priority.

If you’d like to learn more on how to be more successful in your hiring, view this short video below and tell us how you plan on transforming your workforce in the comments below!


The number one driver of employee engagement and workplace performance is culture, so why do so many companies fail at establishing one that wins?

When your workplace culture is working, it is something that the senior leadership propagates and leverages as a competitive advantage. However, when your company culture is not functioning properly—or not working at all—it becomes a deterrent to productivity, innovation and employee morale.

Being that the culture you construct at work is one of the most pivotal cogs driving the success of your business, why, then, do so many companies fail at building one that wins? It’s because, frankly, many business owners, managers and CEOs are unaware as to how big of an impact culture really makes. So how do you build a culture that wins? It begins with you, as a leader—you must become the M.O.R.T.A.R. that holds it all together.



Leading begins with clearly envisioning the overall mission to accomplish and then communicating that vision and purpose in a way that moves, touches and inspires followers to align with and support that vision.

The mark of a great leader is someone who shapes his or her work culture around a compelling and stimulating mission. A leader, who creates a compelling vision, and articulates that vision in a way that moves people into alignment and action, is a leader that gets high quality, mission-fulfilling work done, through others.

There are two keys to creating a culture of people who are intrinsically motivated and operate in service of delivering on the purpose of the enterprise. The first is the leader’s capability and commitment to communicating the vision his people in a way that generates enthusiasm, inspiration and alignment.  The second is the leader’s ability to link each individual in the organization to the purpose of their specific role, and that role purpose to the overall purpose of the organization.  When this happens, people accomplish great feats, and enjoy themselves while they are doing it.


On Boarding

When a new hire comes on board, the most powerful way to connect them to the bigger purpose and vision is to make it a priority for the business leader to share the purpose of the business and the reason it exists as well as the core operating values that each and every employee is expected to demonstrate in their day to day implementation of their role.  When a new hire begins with the end in the mind and formulates an early connection to their role as it pertains to the fulfillment of the mission of the business, they are set up for success because they are taught from the get go that it is about much more than the task at hand.


Rein in negativity

Every business deals with setbacks, challenges, breakdowns and disappointments, the real difference between leaders who carry their people through those tough times and leaders who have carnage to clean up along the way, is the leader who takes the time to check in with how people are feeling and the leader who intervenes in the negativity and works to reverse it.

When it comes right down to it, all negativity or upsets step from one of three incidents, an unfulfilled expectation, a thwarted intention or an undelivered communication. When managers are present and aware of their employees’ feelings and work-style it is very apparent when someone is off kilter or upset. The astute leader is right on top of those upsets and provides support for their people to overcome and get through these motivational killers.

Inspiring people is a core competency of great leaders; great leaders who foster alignment and engagement in employees do this by inspiring people to bring their best self to work.

Therefore, leading others for the long term requires that you are able to recognize and bring this energy. People become inspired when they start believing they have more ability than they thought they did. If you’d like additional tips on how to build a winning workplace culture, check out this video and share your success stories in the comments below.

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